So, how 'bout 'them elections? I had a rough night on Monday and never managed to actually fall and stay asleep, so I decided to just go and vote early in the day so if I fell asleep and stayed that way the rest of the day I wouldn't be upset that I missed my chance to cast a ballot. It turned out to be a fairly decent plan. I was in and out of the voting station in no more than six minutes and back home with nary an obligation but rest in no time flat. It helped that 85% or more of the races on my ballot sheet were uncontested. I didn't see the point in wasting my time to vote for those candidates, and I wasn't awake enough to be creative and think of a clever write-in candidate. Maybe next time.
Of the races in which I did cast a vote, I picked two Democrats and two Republicans. Who, and why, are really unimportant though I will say that I chose Jack Conway over Rand Paul for U.S. Senator. I also picked him to win the race months ago, sometime around the point where he said he felt the Civil Rights Act was illegal. You and I are past such things being important, and we'd like to believe that's true of everyone else, but there are a lot of nasty bad habits that are alive and well in 2010. It's unfortunate that he would even make such a statement, because there was really no call for it in the first place and the only way to judge it is in the context of its place in his campaign. I'm of the mind it was intended to play to his voting base and that it worked, but maybe I'm wrong. We'll see.
Which reminds me. I predicted about eight years ago that the Republican party was headed for a civil war. This year's Tea Party movement is the first fracture. Here's the thing. The GOP has three power bases: the financial masters of the universe who own everything, the military-industrial complex (and, by extension, the NRA and other such enthusiasts) and the evangelical bible-thumpers. I don't mean any of this to sound disparaging. Look at the campaign rhetoric of the last decade alone and it's pretty obvious. Voters who identify with "tax cuts," the second amendment or "Christian values" vote Republican. It's great that so many voters can find candidates that represent their interests.
President George W. Bush did a magnificent job keeping the threesome hot and heavy during his presidency. He came into office and immediately pushed for tax cuts and made a big show of the importance of his Christian faith. Before his first year was up, he was hip deep in post-9/11 press conferences surrounded by military generals. I understand why many Republicans have been quick to distance themselves from Mr. Bush in the last couple of years, as he fell out of favor with the public at large late in his presidency. What baffles me is the way so many have linked themselves to the legacy of President Ronald Reagan.
I don't mean to say I'm surprised that they would make the effort to associate themselves with the Gipper. He's a political icon, and fairly well respected even by his opponents. But you know, the thing is that the GOP has fallen very far from the Reagan tree. Compromise was his key to governance. "Better to have 80% of something than 100% of nothing," he was fond of saying. He'd shoot for the stars, and settle for the moon and call it a win. Yet, throughout the last two years all we've heard from GOP leaders is that they will not cooperate with President Barack Obama. At all. Instead of working to influence the controversial Affordable Health Care and Reform Act, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner simply kept saying, "No" to everything and urging every other card-carrying Republican to do the same. That's not in the Ronald Reagan playbook of compromise. That's obstructionism.
Don't think for a moment that this is intended to paint the Democrats as heroes. As someone who stood to benefit from the aforementioned Health Care legislation I applaud those who worked to get it done. But there is simply no excuse for the kind of petty disorganization that the party has displayed while in control of Congress these past four years. This is what brings us back to the previous and admittedly tedious account of the GOP power base. It's much easier to galvanize when there are really only three issues that an entire party cares about. If it has to do with taxes, they're against them; guns, they're in favor and social issues that can be directly linked to quoting scripture they can get behind (or against, as the case may be).
For the first time in a very long while, though, that triumvirate is falling apart at the seams. I know a lot of people are enthusiastic about the Tea Party and its candidates, but they're a far greater danger to the GOP and traditional conservatives than they are to Democrats or liberals. They're going to test the limits of cooperation among Republicans. It's easy to campaign by inciting white, Christian voters but it's much hard to actually govern that way. Expect to see the rank and file Republicans drowned out by their Tea Party brethren, both in the halls of Congress and in the media. There is an opportunity here for President Obama to build a more cooperative consensus in Congress with his rivals than he was able to do with his own party, a la President Clinton in the early 90s, but much of it hinges on whether the GOP leadership will continue to cling to its policy of "No!" or actually man up and get back to the kind of cooperation that they allegedly valued in President Reagan.
Incidentally, one last thought. As someone who has clear spiritual values, I am horrified by any candidate who runs on a platform of Christianity. I've got mostly Scottish and Irish heritage, and my people can tell you a thing or two about what happens when one group of people declare that their brand of faith should have political power. I don't need you telling me how to worship, thank you very much, and I'm not arrogant enough to think I ought to be telling you. These are not your friends, my fellow American. At best they'll do nothing to justify your vote. At worst, they will.
And on that note, I leave you with what I thought was the craziest campaign speech of all time: